Volume 55 Number 80
                    Produced: Fri Sep 21  5:20:32 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Tzavaas Harivash and Talmud
         [Shlomo Yaffe]


From: <meirman@...> (Meir)
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2007 20:05:52 -0400
Subject: Noahide

>From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
>  V55#77   ...what do you mean by a Noahide?

A gentile who believes in G-d, believes in the Torah, doesn't believe in
the Xian apocryphal addendum, and believes that he is bound by the Sheva
Mitzvot B'nei Noach, although more often this is expressed in English,
and maybe in other local languages.  I know of one from Malaysia, though
she writes in English.

>When I "googled" the term -- the first references are to a website
>established by Chabad Lubavitch.  Are there any people who
>SELF-IDENTIFY as "Noahides" today?

Absolutely.  The L. Rebbe was encouraging, and asknoah.com is run either
by the Lubavitch or by Noahides associated with them.  There are also
those who are especially interested in Vendyl Jones, in SW Dallas.  And
there are other groups. It's hard to judge how many people total.  In my
estimation, maybe less than 1000, maybe less than 400, world-wide, but
conceivably there may be many many times more.  (I'm only aware of those
who have some relationship to the Internet.)  Also spelled Noachide, of

There are at least two Yahoo lists, although one has gotten very quiet.
The other has 250 subscribers but all Yahoo groups that require
subscription to read the posts have people who subscribe and never post,
who stop reading but don't unsubscribe in case they want to go
back. Some are just curious and never have any intention of becoming a
Noahide.  And most religious lists have spies or troublemakers who
subscribe and may even try to shake people's beliefs with difficult
questions, or falsehoods, if they can get them past the moderator..
Plus the Noahide lists have had a few Jews, including a few O rabbis.
But out of 250, no more than 20 people post in most months, and it's
impossible to say who or how many are reading but not posting.

They face several problems, that they are spread out so much, maybe
hundreds of miles from another.  That they have a shortage of rabbis
interested in them, and those who are are usually busy with many other
things.  Different rabbis emphasize different approaches and some may
even disagree with others, like whether they are bound by THE laws, or
some laws, regarding loshon hora.  They have only a small number of
books written just for or about them.  They don't know what parts of
Torah they are allowed to learn and they don't want to learn what
they're not supposed to. Few read Hebrew at all, and probably none
anywhere near as well as most of the readers of this list.  Most live
far from any Jewish library or bookstore, and many don't have a lot of
money or aren't used to spending as much on books as O Jews spend.  So
they depend far too much on what is posted on the web.  They try to find
only stuff written by Orthodox Jews, like on aish.com or mesora.org,
etc. but they are lucky to find even one article on a particular topic.
Right now, one group is trying to decide whether to use an online
version of the Soncino Talmud that is, it seems, an accurate copy but on
a somewhat anti-semitic website, http://www.come-and-hear.com. There is
no one there who has the knowledge to explain it, except any parts that
are self-explanatory.  AIUI the Soncino is not a good translation, but
I'm not in a position to tell them anything right now, and I don't know
what alternative they have anyhow, since one guy has convinced them they
should have their own Noahide daf yomi.  And other problems I'll skip

If any of you have the desire to read and to help, please write me
directly first, so I can warn you of things you should know.  We are
often told to read for a while before posting to an internet list, but
there's much more to know here.

>I can't capture the intellectual depth of [Justice Scalia's] discussion
>here, but in essence freedom of religion was FOR religion but AGAINST
>the establishment of any specific religion (as the state religion.)

I"m not in favor of atheism or agnosticism**, but regardless of the
intent of the Founders, I don't see how it could be possible,
practically or logically, to allow people to choose their religion
without allowing them to choose none at all.  And given that, I don't
see how the US government or the states could be allowed to treat those
who choose none differently from other people.  I'd say that based on
the First Amendment and the state constitutions, even if there were no
14th Amendment.

**A doctrine or a person's belief that he does not know or one cannot
know if God or a god exists.  I've seen the word used by Jews as if it
is the same as atheism, but atheism is the doctrine or belief that there
is no god.


From: Shlomo Yaffe <shlomoyaffe@...>
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2007 10:15:25 -0400
Subject: RE: Tzavaas Harivash and Talmud

The Tzavvaat Hrivash needs to approached carefully. The reasons are
articulated by the Baal Hatanya -who was active at the time of the
publication of Tzawaat Harivash and represents a very direct link,
through the Magid and others to the Baal Shem Tov's teachings.

The quote from Iggeret Hakodesh #25 is (with annotations from "shiurim
besefer hatanya)

To comprehend the words of understanding, i.e., the words of Torah,
stated in the book called Tzavaat Rivash3 (The Testament of the Baal
Shem Tov), though in fact it is not at all (4) his will or testament,
and he did not ordain anything before his passing; they (i.e., the
teachings in this book) are merely gleanings of his pure sayings

The adjective (pure) recalls the phrase in the morning blessings, that
describes the pristine purity of a soul before it descends from the
World of Atzilut; likewise the verse, (5) "as pure as the very heavens".
that were gathered as (6) "compilations after compilations,"
and [the compilers] did not know how to phrase his teachings exactly.
For the Baal Shem Tov used to speak in Yiddish, and the teachings in Tzavaat
HaRivash are recorded in Hebrew.

The connotation, however, of the teachings is absolutely true.

The Alter Rebbe now begins to explain the statement in Tzavaat HaRivash,
sec. 120.

As far as the issue under consideration:

As several have pointed out the BST is only denigrating Talmud study to
the exclusion of all other study -espcially the study of works of Yiraat
Shamayim and practical Halachah. Let me remind our dear readers that R.
Yisrael Salanter said very similar things.....

It is incontrovertible that the Baal Shem Tov, his students (not all the
Chassidim -the core group of disciples) and their students were deeply
involved in Talmud study. Although there are not many Sefarim from the
Baal Shem Tov's generation (as they on the whole as a matter of ideoligy
-related to their understanding of Anavah, did not write sefarim) we
have the testimony of their students (see Shivchei Hebesht) , as well as
the fact that Magids students prouduced works of Talmudic Schlarship to
wit: The Hafl'aah, who also wrote the Hemakneh, The Baal Hatnaya
(Teshuvot and Shulchan Aruch Harav) and others. Rav Levi Yitzchak of
Berdichev was known to be a scholar of the first degree though only a
few Teshuvot have come down to us from him. Indeed the testimony of the
above metioned indviduals,was that all of the Disciples of the Maggid
were great Talmudic scholars

Most of all, in the most systematic and clear exposition of the Baal Shem
Tov's philosphy, the Tanya, there is a very clear statement with regard to
the study of Torah, with Talmud singled out as the  acme of the heirarchy of
religious observances. 

For those who imagine that there is is this huge evolution of Chassidic
thought between the Baal Shem Tov's passing and the Baal Hatanya -please
remember: The Baal Shem Tov passed away in 1760 and R. Shneur Zalman
began composing the Tanya in about 1775. Athough in this woute he
discusses all of PARDES he uses Talmud as an example. Also in Likkutei
Torah Vayikra in the Biur on the discourse "Lo Tashbit Melech" he
explains why the primary study neds to be in thE Talmud, its
commentaries and codes.

Qoute from chapter 5 of Likkutei Amarim follows: 

Thus, in the act of understanding an idea the mind both encompasses the
concept and is encompassed by it, and this is the significance of the
term "grasping" used above.  When, for example, one understands and
comprehends a particular halachah in the Mishnah or Gemara, clearly and
thoroughly, through strenuous application of his mind, his intellect
grasps and encompasses that halachah, and his intellect is also clothed
in it at that time when he strives to understand it.  Now, this halachah
is the wisdom and Will of G-d - the rationale underlying the halachah is
G-d's wisdom, and the ruling itself is G-d's Will, as mentioned in
ch. 4.

It so arose in His Will that if, for example, Reuven would claim thus
and Shimon thus, such and such should be the verdict between them.  Even
if it never did nor ever will come to pass that litigation occur over
these arguments and claims,

Thus, were the purpose of Torah study only to learn how to practice its
laws - in this case: how to resolve this dispute - then the study of
such a law would indeed serve no purpose. In fact, however, there is
great value in studying even such a halachah, for thereby one knows
G-d's Will and wisdom, and attaches himself to it, as the Alter Rebbe

yet, since it arose thus in G-d's Will and wisdom that if one person
would claim this way and the other that way, the verdict be such and
such, therefore when one knows and comprehends this verdict as a
halachah set forth in the Mishnah or Gemara or Poskim (the halachic
codifiers), If one arrives at the identical verdict on the basis of any
other legal system, this verdict represents human knowledge, not Divine
wisdom. If, however, he derives the ruling from Torah, he then actually
comprehends and grasps the Will and wisdom of G-d, Whom no thought can
grasp, nor [can any thought grasp] His Will and wisdom, except when they
- G-d's Will and wisdom - clothe themselves in the halachot set before

This is one facet of understanding Torah, namely, that thereby one's
intellect encompasses the Divine Will and wisdom. Furthermore: His
intellect is also clothed within them - within the Divine Will and
wisdom contained in Torah; his mind is encompassed by them.  Now this is
a most wonderful unity; in the physical realm there in no unity similar
or parallel to it, i.e., of two things as disproportionate as human
intellect and Torah, G-d's intellect - that they should actually become
one and united from every side and angle.  This is the distinctive,
infinitely great and wonderful superiority of the mitzvah of knowing and
comprehending Torah over all the mitzvot involving action, and even over
those performed through speech; indeed, even over the mitzvah of oral
Torah study.

The precept of Torah study may be performed by reciting passages of
Scripture, even if one is ignorant of their meaning. Such study,
however, lacks the infinitely superior quality of comprehending Torah,
namely: For through all the mitzvot performed in action and speech G-d
clothes the soul, and envelops it with His light from "head" to "foot",
i.e., from its highest level to its lowest; while in the case of the
knowledge of Torah, apart from the intellect's being clothed in (i.e.,
enveloped by) Divine wisdom, the Divine wisdom is also within him, so
that he envelops it, through his intellect's comprehending, grasping and
encompassing whatever Torah knowledge it is capable of grasping and
comprehending, each man according to his intellect and his capacity for
knowledge and understanding in Pardes (2) - the four modes of Torah
interpretation: Pshat, Remez, Derush and Sod.

Thus, apart from the effect that Torah shares with other mitzvot,
namely, that a mitzvah when performed envelops the soul in Divine light,
Torah study has the additional effect of filling the soul (internally)
with the light of Divine wisdom contained in the Torah that the soul
grasps and encompasses.  Since through the knowledge of Torah the Torah
is absorbed in the soul and intellect of the person and is encompassed
within them, is is therefore called the "bread" and "food" of the soul.
Just as physical bread nourishes the body when it is ingested and
absorbed within it, and [when] it is transformed there into blood and
flesh of one's own flesh, and only then will the body live and be
sustained; similarly, through the knowledge and comprehension of Torah
by the soul of a person who studies it well, with the concentration of
his intellect, to the point where the Torah is grasped by his mind and
is joined with him so that they become one, [the Torah thereby] becomes
food for the soul.  It becomes inner life for it, from the Fountainhead
of life, the blessed Ein Sof, Who is clothed in His wisdom and Torah
that are in [the soul] of the Torah student.  This is the meaning of the
verse, (3) "Your Torah is in my inner parts," meaning that Torah is food
for the soul.  It is similarly written in Etz Chayim (Portal 44, ch. 3)
that mitzvot are the "garments" of the souls in Paradise.

In Paradise, souls enjoy the radiance of the Divine Presence. In order
that the soul, a finite being, be capable of bearing the infinite
radiance, it must be shielded by spiritual "garments". The mitzvot it
performed during its life on earth provide the soul with these garments;
for, as explained above, performing mitzvot envelops the soul in Divine
light, as a garment envelops the body.  Torah on the other hand is the
food of the souls in Paradise which had engaged in Torah study for its
own sake during their life on this earth. It is similarly written in the
Zohar (Vayakhel, p. 210).  The meaning of [Torah study] "for its own
sake" is [study] with the intent of binding one's soul to G-d by
comprehending the Torah, (4) each man according to the capacity of his
intellect, as explained in Pri Etz Chayim.


End of Volume 55 Issue 80